A friend just told me that her neighbors dog was put to sleep due to heat stroke complications. This was a dog in Somerville, MA. This story is incredibly tragic, but is also a warning to all people with dogs. Every dog can be affected by the heat, but keep an eye on especially the following:
-Brachycephalic breeds (Pugs, Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Pekingese, and other dogs with a "smooshed in face").
-Greyhounds (they have very little body fat, and can not insulate against the cold or heat very well)
-Heavy coated dogs, such as (but not limited to) Malamutes, Huskies, Samoyeds, Australian Shepherds
-Small dogs - they are way more susceptible to temperatures than their medium sized counterparts.
-Older dogs can't regulate their temperatures as easily as younger dogs
-Puppies often don't know when to quit playing when it's incredibly hot. They will continue to run around, even as signs of heat stroke start to occur. Watch puppies and high energy dogs closely.
WARNING SIGNS OF HEAT STROKE:
Rapid heart rate
Thick drooling saliva
Panicked or wild expression
Increased rectal temperature (over 104° requires action, over 106° is a dire emergency)
Dark red gums
Tacky or dry mucus membranes (specifically the gums)
Lying down and unwilling (or unable) to get up
Collapse and/or loss of consciousness
Dizziness or disorientation
What To Do?
1. Immediately get your dog out of the heat, away from the sun, and to a shaded/cooler place.
2. Cool your dog off by using cool water, ice packs to the base of the skull, or a hose. Do NOT use ice cold water as it will constrict the blood vessels which will prevent the body from cooling. This can cause the body's core to increase in temperature. Use the car/house air conditioning. When the body returns to a temperature of 103 degrees, cease cooling efforts as you do not want to force the dog into a hypothermic state (which is also very, very bad.)
3. Get the dog in the car (with ice pack/shirt soaked in water/air conditioning cranked, and a friend to drive you) and head to the vet STAT.
4. You can use rubbing alcohol on the feet and rectum of a dog. As the alcohol evaporates, it cools the surface of the bare skin.
5. Do not force your dog to drink, but offer a bowl of water.
6. Even if your dog returns to normal temperature during transport, internal damage to the brain and organs may have occurred. Your dog may be seriously dehydrated. It's imperative that your dog visits the veterinarian ASAP for examination.
Preventing Heat Stroke
-Walk dogs early in the morning and in the late afternoon/evening. Avoid the hottest hours of the day (12pm-4pm)
-Even if your dog can "take it", keep them off of sidewalks if possible, and other hot surfaces. They do not have shoes on their feet, and can easily burn their pads. If the sidewalk is too hot for your feet to touch without shoes on (or the back of your hands), then they should not walk on it.
-Don't push it. If your dog can do a 2 mile walk in 60 degree weather, don't expect them to be able to do this same exercise in 85 degree weather. The best thing to do is watch your dog, and use common sense. Shorten walks, and time them for cooler times of day.
-Do NOT keep your dog in a closed car, even with the windows cracked. Everyone says this, everyone knows this, but every year dogs die in cars. Even the most well intending people say "it will only be a second" and roll the windows down. Not only does the heat rise FAST in a car, but with your window down dogs can get out, or taken out, of your car. This recently happened in Augusta, Maine and the dog still hasn't been found. Do not leave your dog unattended in a car. Period. Leave your dog at home.
-If you must get your dog out, make sure it's for a short period of time, offer lots of water, plenty of shade, and don't over do it. If your dog isn't with you, make sure the person who has your dog knows the signs of heat stroke and is taking every precaution against having your dog overheat.
-You can purchase cooling pads for your dog to lay on, or wet a bandanna to help keep your dog cool.
-Don't leave any animal unattended out in this heat, even with shade and water. Water can tip or get hot, shade can move/disappear as the sun moves. It's best to keep them inside or crated instead of leaving them alone outside in excessive temperatures.
-If your worried about your pet not getting adequate exercise due to heat, you can enroll your dog in an indoor agility class, or a local daycare to make up for missing outdoor activities during the hottest part of the summer.
Have fun this summer- it's a short time of year for us New Englanders and we want to take in as much as we can! However, fun should not come at the expense of a preventable medical emergency for our 4 legged friends. If something were to happen, I hope you can at least take the necessary steps to prevent heatstroke from worsening as you get them to the nearest veterinarian.